The Oswego State women’s ice hockey team defeated Aurora, 6-2, on Saturday afternoon at the Campus Center Ice Arena in their first game this season. Although it was just an exhibition match, and the win Oswego State earned will not count on its official record, the game was important in setting the stage for the start of the regular season.
With a difficult schedule facing them this season, Oswego State considered this game an important first step. Winning this game was important in a different sense than it usually is. It was not about winning the game for the team record, but about preparing for the season and building up team confidence.
"We considered this base camp for climbing Everest," junior defender and captain Kathryn Sbrocchi said. "A win is definitely something that is going to give us a lot of confidence going into two games coming up this weekend."
Winning the first game will give the Lakers relief and much more confidence for their season opener against Adrian College in Michigan on Friday, Oct. 29.
"It’s always great to get that first game under your belt," coach Diane Dillon said. "With 11 new players on the team, it’s nice to have some success early so they understand how we go about things and they get a little confidence under the belt so we can hit the road next week with some confidence."
The victory was a proving ground for the newcomers of the team who were given their first chance to shine. A few of the notable newcomers are Mackenzie Lee, a transfer from SUNY Plattsburgh, freshman Catherine Coté, who started at goaltender, freshman Jocelyn St. Clair, who started on defense. Also, freshmen Melissa Seamont and Megan Howe, who both registered their first goals for Oswego State during the second period.
The success of the freshmen was key to the win and shows that they will be an important part of the team this season.
"We had three new players get their first goal already, and the freshmen defensemen were fantastic all game long," Dillon said.
"[The freshmen] stepped up and played well and skated well," Lee said.They didn’t struggle at all.
Coté had one of the most impressive performances of all, stopping 22 Aurora shots and looking poised in the crease during the two periods she played.
"Nervous, awesome, all the feelings were there," Coté said. "It’s exciting, just a dream coming true."
The first period started out with both teams showing a lot of energy. A hooking penalty to Aurora halfway through the period gave Oswego State its first chance to test out its power play. Although they never found the net, the power play unit put a lot of pressure on Aurora’s defense. The tables turned a minute later when Oswego State was penalized for interference and was now forced to go on the penalty kill. Aurora’s power play, unlike Oswego State’s, was not a very successful one, as the Laker penalty killers shut down Aurora and never allowed them to set up in the offensive zone. The period ended on an exciting note with Lee backhanding a shot past Aurora goalie Rebecca Bouwhuis with only eight seconds remaining.
"[The goal] definitely gave our whole team a lot more momentum," Lee said. "We were playing well going into the goal but I think it gave us a lot more confidence, everyone kind of calmed down and we started clicking together."
Oswego State dominated the second period with three goals coming from Seamont, Howe and junior forward Kelly Collins. Oswego State also had a strong penalty kill and played an aggressive period. Aurora managed to score a goal near the end of the period, when Coté was beat on the glove side. Despite this one hiccup both Coté and the rest of the team ended the period with confidence.
The final twenty minutes of play was more like the first period than the second. Both teams came out aggressively and Aurora managed to score their second goal just over a minute into the period. This did not stop Oswego State from playing its best hockey. The Lakers held Aurora scoreless for the rest of the game. Lee scored her second goal halfway through the period and tacked on an empty-net goal in the final seconds to complete the hat trick.
In this game, the Oswego State women’s hockey team showed off the results of its hard work during the preseason.
"In terms of success, I thought we moved the puck well," Dillon said. "Our defense stood up in the neutral zone and really shut Aurora down quite a bit."
"We had really good back checking… and our puck movement was solid," Sbrocchi said. "We had some really good passes."
Another one of the advantages that the Lakers had over Aurora was their drive.
"The energy was there, the work ethic was there, and that’s what we will build on," Dillon said. "Even when we made mistakes we did it with a lot of energy."
Although the team’s weaknesses were not as obvious as their strengths, there is always room for improvement.
"We probably need to work on our defensive zone a little bit as far as coverage, but I think we will get that down in the next week," Sbrocchi said.
"Do we have some things to clean up? Absolutely," Dillon said. "We got a little sloppy. We gave up some pucks when we really shouldn’t have, but overall I was very happy."
These weaknesses are ones that can be fixed, and what Oswego State got out of this game as far as preparation was very valuable.
"Coach was throwing together different line combinations so I think it definitely helped us figure out who can play well together and a lot of the combinations worked out really well," Sbrocchi said.
Finding out which players have chemistry on the ice is very important moving forward in the season, especially with the Lakers have such a rigorous schedule.
"I think this season we are going to surprise a lot of people," Coté said.
The game set a positive tone for the Lakers as they prepare for this weekend’s games at Adrian College.
Oswego State plays its home opener against last year’s ECAC West champions, Elmira on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. The Lakers will again host Elmira College the following day to finish out the two game series with the Soaring Eagles.